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CD of The Week

Week of 1/21/19

    Guster - Look Alive (Ocho Mule / Nettwerk)

    One of our all-time fave bands around Y-Not, Guster are back once again with their eighth record, Look Alive. The group continues with the more keyboard-heavy vibe of their last album, 2015's Evermotion, while never letting go of the poppy melodies and vocal harmonies that have been the lynchpin throughout their entire catalog.

    "Don't Go," the single we played late last year, has a big, bright classic Guster chorus and a great, evocative opening lyric: "Was in the way you put your coffee down / There was something on your chest." The multi-part suite "Hello Mister Sun" has a jaunty, Paul McCartney vibe to it, and could easily be a children's sing-along.

    Then there's "Overexcited," which fits another huge, hooky Guster chorus into the most confounding single of their career. Why is front man Ryan Miller singing in a fake British accent over dinky keyboards? Perhaps it's a trick to distance himself from the narrator, but it almost comes off as a parody of '80s British New Wave and also obscures the song is a character study about anxiety and awkwardness.

    Look Alive is full of oblique references to the darkness in the world, mixed with more specific dark-night-of-the-soul moments. For example. "Summertime" isn't the summer-y tune you might expect. "Hard Times" also gets at the mood of society today, and it's always nice to hear Adam Gardner's backing vocals. He definitely shows up more here than on Evermotion.

    "Terrified" is flat-out staring down death: "Holy matrimony, make some babies and lay down 'til we die / Circling chairs until the music stops" but adds that "Until it ends you got to / Open up your heart / Everybody's got it hard / We're built and then fall apart / We're all terrified."

    The last part of Look Alive gets a little mellower, and with only nine tracks, it ends a bit abruptly. By now, Guster are working in the same sphere as Philly's own Dr. Dog, playing with different textures and sounds while still keeping the melodies that ensure they sound truly alive.

    As you may have heard, Guster rescheduled their Philadelphia date and will now play The Fillmore on March 23rd with a special set celebrating the 20th anniversary of their sophomore album Lost and Gone Forever by playing the record in its entirety.
    Review by Joey O.

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